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Stacey and Curtis broke up six months ago. After what feels like a lifetime on furlough, Curtis has had more than too much time on his hands to think about his possible wrongdoings in the relationship. Wanting to reach out and reconcile, he messages Stacey — who surprisingly agrees to a spontaneous facetime — and they delve into a tricky conversation of the past. Always on my Mind, written by Liam Alexandru, explores those messy break-up dynamics and questions whether some things really are better left unsaid.
What’s initially funny about this piece is that it’s so intentionally awkward. After a standard joke about being on mute, the facetime begins and the dialogue takes it’s time to get going. You’re cringing and screaming at the screen and questioning: “Does this conversation really have to happen?”
Lucy Syed (Stacey) stylishly underplays the emotions of the piece, whilst Charles Lomas (Curtis) opts for a slightly more theatrical performance. Whilst their styles don’t always balance or match, the two work well maintaining textual rhythm and pace, carrying the energy of the story towards its climax.
Although this is an intimate, yet entirely uncomfortable situation, these characters are not alone: they have their personified internal monologues by their side, each played by the respective actors, who are superimposed into the scene (Hats off to the tech team!). At first, this feature is a little confusing and takes away from the focus of the action, but it does offer some moments of comedy by highlighting that what we think and what we say are two very different things.
Now, I understand that trying to deliver online performances in new and dynamic ways, whilst still sticking to social distancing rules, is becoming trickier. However, sometimes simplicity really is the best option. There’s a moment where Stacey and Curtis are supposed to be on the same couch, conversing in real-time. Of course, this has had to be filmed from two different houses, but the shots are ‘blended’ together, switching between locations, so that it’s supposed to look like Stacey’s legs are over Curtis’. Attention to detail is often so crucial on screen as any moment can take us out of the reality we’re buying into; in this case, Stacey is in a skirt in one shot, whilst wearing joggers in the other.
In all fairness, it’s worth noting that there are times when Theodore Gray’s direction works really well. The climax of the scene features an argument and the shots flash between Stacey and Curtis, escalating the tension in a back-and-forth tennis-style battle.
Clocking in at 20 minutes, Always on my Mind isn’t perfect, but it’s still a fun and tender watch, ending with a hopeful outlook. With some neatening up, this piece could really tug at a few more heartstrings. Lockdown has given us all time to think about the people we miss. Maybe now is the time to ask “What’s the harm in reaching out?” You never know what might happen …
Always on my Mind is available to stream online until 22 February. For more information and tickets, see Shipwreck Productions online.